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Research Study at Memorial Cancer Institute Offers the Potential of T-Cell Therapy

October 19, 2023 – Cancer patients whose disease has been resistant to traditional chemotherapy drugs and/or metastasized within their body may be eligible for an immunotherapy that has been successful in the treatment of blood cancers.

Memorial Cancer Institute, one of only seven designated Cancer Centers of Excellence in Florida, is hosting a research study that will utilize CAR-T cell therapy against solid tumors in the head and neck, lungs, and skin.

The T-cell immunotherapy has demonstrated success in specific blood cancers, like acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and select non-Hodgkin lymphomas, boasting response rates of 50% to exceeding 70% in clinical trials. Notably, CAR-T therapy represents a dynamic frontier in cancer treatment, with ongoing research and evolving clinical outcomes shaping its trajectory.

“In our Cancer Center of Excellence, we offer diverse opportunities for patient participation in cutting-edge clinical trials, contingent on research protocols and medical evaluation,” said Dr. Andres Alvarez, MD, PhD, Director, Oncology Research at Memorial Healthcare System. “Our clinical research focus includes the search for specific HLA-typed cells in solid tumor CAR-T clinical studies, as well as numerous other novel research opportunities. Our commitment to state-of-the-art oncology research is driven by cell therapies, pioneering developments in new treatment options for solid tumors, personalized medicine, genetics, biobanking, and treating patients with precision medicine. Novel types of immunotherapy, like reengineered T cells (CAR-T and TIL therapies) and other medical research advances, are part of this approach.”

T cells are a type of white blood cell that help the body’s immune system fight disease. In CAR-T cell therapy they are harvested from blood and genetically altered to produce synthetic molecules called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs). In the current study, the modified cells will be used for patients with solid tumors, with the hope that the CARs enable the T cells to recognize and attach to a certain protein in cancer cells and kill them.

The approach has had success in the lab and the research is now being extended to select cancer centers for use on patients that qualify. “Ours is a multi-disciplinary approach that includes physicians, scientists, research specialists, regulatory experts, Memorial’s Office of Human Research, its cancer institute, and the Moffitt Malignant Hematology and Cell Therapy program,” said Alvarez. “It’s a unique collaboration made even more effective by the enhanced technology and research capabilities of the new 122,000 square foot, $125 million dedicated cancer facility we’re opening that will provide additional space for studies and increased access to clinical trials for patients.”

Patients that qualify to participate in the CAR-T study can expect a minimum of six months of research visits, monthly oncology visits, and target treatments. Study qualification, participation, and results will be determined through medical oncologist evaluation.

To learn more about CAR-T cell therapy for solid tumors or any of the more than 75 clinical trials offered at Memorial, request information online or call 954-265-1847.

The Memorial Cancer Institute (MCI) is one of the largest cancer centers in Florida, treating nearly 5,000 new patients each year. One of only seven programs designated by the Florida Department of Health as a “Florida Cancer Center of Excellence,” it offers diagnosis, integrated treatment, support, clinical trials, and research customized for the patient and his or her family in an environment close to home. 

Part of the Memorial Healthcare System, Memorial Cancer Institute will open a free-standing facility in Pembroke Pines in 2023 that will include radiation oncology, a dedicated breast center, hematology and medical oncology clinic, the Moffitt Malignant Hematology and Cellular Therapy Clinic, and an infusion center. It will also feature the Center for Body, Mind, and Spirit, conference area, private infusion suites, a rooftop garden, and meditation sanctuary that will cement Memorial’s place as a home for world-class cancer treatment, research, and the highest quality patient and family-centered care.